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Study Says Some New Orleans Principals Cherry-Picked Students

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Citing pressure to increase student enrollment numbers and boost test scores, a new study found that some New Orleans public school principals selectively chose students for admission.

An Education Research Alliance for New Orleans study found that a third of the 30 public school principals interviewed for the research admitted that they selected or excluded students by counseling less desirable students to transfer to other schools, using targeted marketing, and not reporting open seats. The principals used these selective strategies even though enrollment was supposed to be open to all applicants. 

 "The combined pressure to enroll a greater number of students and raise test scores to meet state targets seems to have created perverse incentives, encouraging the practice of screening and selecting students," writes Huriya Jabbar, the study's author and a research associate at Education Research Alliance for New Orleans.

The alliance, which is affiliated with Tulane University, released the study Thursday. The study based is based on data from more than 70 interviews with district, school, and charter school leaders from 30 randomly selected New Orleans public schools in 2012-2013. Education Week's Jacob Bell writes more about the study here.

The devastation left by Hurricane Katrina almost 10 years ago led to a massive overhaul of New Orleans public schools, which included a state takeover and an influx of charter schools. According to the study, competition for students, led school leaders to respond in various ways. While the leaders of all but one of the 30 schools in the study cited having competition, the study found that district officials need to take a more active role in monitoring the strategies school leaders use to compete for students.

"Without more efforts to manage the current responses to competition like student selection and exclusion," Jabbar writes, "New Orleans could end up with a less equitable school system."

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